The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter


This review commemorates Richard Baxter’s 400th birthday (11/12/1615).


Richard Baxter pastored the parish of Kidderminster — a community of 800 families — with whom he carefully and intentionally conferenced over the course of a year. By conference, Baxter met with eight families each day, Monday and Tuesday, to discuss catechism, assess their spiritual condition, and answer any questions of conscience these families might have. From reading the Reformed Pastor, one might presume that, though these meetings were fairly structured, they were anything but droll. Rather, they were intense discussions on what Baxter considered to be the most urgent affair, true conversion.

Baxter’s model for private conferencing of families spread throughout England, and, in due time, the Worcestershire Association requested Baxter to preach on this matter of conferencing (13).[1] Unfortunately, Baxter fell sick; unable to attend to the preaching of this subject, he published his exposition of Acts 20:28 as Gildas Salvianus, the title of which presently we refer to as The Reformed Pastor. The Reformed Pastor, as an exposition of biblical text in Puritan style, is a 250 page work. This work exposits a single verse, Acts 20:28, in the following fashion.[2]

The first chapter looks at the oversight of the pastor’s soul in two sections: the first covering the nature of how a pastor exercises oversight of his soul and the second developing the motives by which the pastor exercises personal oversight. A pastor must first ascertain his spiritual condition. Is he truly converted? Is he in a state of grace? If so, then why might he be so asleep to the task of the conversion of lost souls? His opening sentence is a striking warning: “See that the work of saving grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls” (53). Baxter challenges pastors to let actions match doctrine and to be sure not to preach hypocrisy. He argues, “Oh how curiously have I heard some men preach; and how carelessly have I seen them live!” (64).

The second section of chapter one — on a pastor’s motive for self-oversight — reminds the pastor that he is just as in danger of hell as his Sunday morning listener’s. He, too, is depraved and tempted; he is watched by sinners and his parish. And, as a leader, his sin will have great effect on others’ souls, while his diligence will lead to greater success for heaven.

Chapter two presents the proposition that a pastor must in due diligence exercise oversight of his flock. This effort is not simply in preaching from the pulpit, administering sacraments, and visiting the sick, but it must also necessarily include personal engagement with each member of the parish from young to old. Chapter two is made up of three sections: the nature, manner, and motive for oversight. Readers discover that the nature and motive of this kind of oversight is fairly consistent with that of chapter one.

The nature of a pastor’s oversight of a parish makes conversion of souls primary. For those who have security of salvation, the pastor must help them through matters of conscience. This means that pastors must be well studied and must encourage the study of his congregation. The pastor must look to the needs of families, the sick, and direct the impenitent towards penance by faithfully administering church discipline.

A pastor must practice oversight, not for personal gain and worldly comfort, but out of a desire to glorify God and further his kingdom. This task must be done with fervency, earnestness, and diligence; a pastor must have a tender and humble disposition that woos people to his instruction and authority. Very intriguing is also Baxter’s clarion call for pastors to unite and work towards oversight through the wider effort of ecumenism.

Baxter closes chapter two with careful exegesis of Acts 20:28, and advances the motive for congregational oversight by appealing to the office of overseer, the person of the Holy Spirit, the Church God founded, and the blood of Christ, which purchased that Church.

The third chapter goes on to an application section, which describes, through practical instruction, how oversight should take place. To begin with, oversight should take place with humility. Baxter laments, “What pains do we take to humble them, while we ourselves are unhumbled!” (133). Furthermore, according to Baxter, this loftier expectation on private conferencing should be accomplished by the method of personal catechizing and instruction. The pastor willing to take on this high calling should expect that this work will come with benefits and difficulties, but it is a necessary work. One source of these difficulties arises from objections of members within the parish. Nonetheless, a pastor should give diligent direction to his people through both his personal model, resourcing the people, and with Christian character. He must do so by evaluating his people’s understanding of Christian doctrines, sensing their earnestness about eternal matters, and helping them understand their miserable state apart from Christ.

The general tone of Baxter’s, The Reformed Pastor, is one of urgency and fervency. Very much unlike some of our reads that have been methodological and rational. Not to say that Baxter’s pedagogy is not rational or ordered; it is very much so — following a distinctly Ramist logic as characteristic of its time. What is refreshing with Baxter is his sincerity; whereas Descartes might be hesitant to publish what he indeed believed to be true but feared might lead to his burning, Baxter would gladly endure the loss of his property, wealth, and freedom for these truths he holds so dear. This, in fact, is precisely what will later happen to Baxter when he is ejected, along with 2000 others, by the Act of Uniformity in 1662 — some six years after this publication.

Baxter sees these matters as life and death, not just for his parish but also for himself. Many assume that the Puritanical mentality is one of judgment and harshness. However, anyone who spends any amount of time with the Puritans discovers that the greatest indictment a Puritan preacher gives is first upon his self; Puritans practiced the commended discipline of preaching to self (55, 61). Two such clearly self-effacing examples in this text include the first-person plural used in the section on humility (cf. 133 ff.), and the first-person singular used to close that section (172).

In our present time, many would read this work and say: “Why this is an unrealistic expectation and calling upon a pastor?” No doubt, there was no shortage of listeners in Baxter’s day whom felt likewise. We can write off the present’s sluggishness and slovenliness to the spirit of the age, the product of post-modernity, the excess of what the Puritans would call diversion. No doubt many readers today would discount this text as an uncomfortable blemish pulling them away from countless hours of couch time in front of sports, Netflix, or treasured times of playing cards or board games. But still, Baxter’s admonition stands. Is the value of a soul greater than a game of cards? Should pastors idly stand by like a fireman next to a burning apartment filled with small children? Or should he preach as a dying man to dying men?


[1] All citations here forward are from: Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001).

[2] This text is presented here as from the introductory note (51). “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

Have We Made Too Much of Grace?

Thomas Watson writes in The Ten Commandments:

If we trust in our grace, we make a god of it. Grace is but a creature; if we trust to it we make it an idol. Grace is imperfect, and we must not trust to that which is imperfect to save us. ‘I have walked in my integrity: I have trusted also in the Lord.” Psa xxxvi I. David walked in his integrity; but did not trust in his integrity. ‘I have trusted in the Lord.’ If we trust in our graces, we make a Christ of them. They are good graces, but bad Christs. (57)

For a decade I was taught to completely write off the law of God, or at least that’s what my ears heard. Honestly, it’s what I believe is the general temperature of the evangelical pool: a lot of cool grace but none of the warm law. In the last four years my disposition to the law has altered. I’ve grown to not only have strong affections for the ten commandments, but I use them constantly in my life to war against sin. As I introspectively watch over my life, the commandments of God play a crucial role in seeing my disobedience and my need for Christ. In turn I apply the instruction of the law as I instruct my children, using resources like New City Catechism, the London Baptist Catechism, the Westminster Catechism, and the Heidelberg Catechism. Both my wife and I have been enriched by these resources.

But I imagine, a lot of people reading this, would be a bit surprised by this shift. It’s just not the view that I swam in for so long. It’s like I got into a different pool, one that’s a little bit warmer, and, well, I like it there. My whole family likes it there. Now I really want to go to the old pool and show others that maybe their water is a little too cold.

My concern is that some in their thirst and need for grace fashion an idol out of grace. Though we should make much of grace, we should not make too much of grace. Fundamentally, as Watson says above, grace makes a poor Christ. It is no Christ at all. Grace is an instrument of God. It is an abstract idea that describes a relationship. It is an attribute of God, so a facet of him for sure. But you cannot worship the part in substitute for the whole. Then you make less of who God is. Grace, I would say, is more than a thing but certainly less than a person, and it’s only a person that saves, the person, Christ (1 Th. 5:9). I am fascinated by how Watson refers to grace as a creature.

Likewise, the evangelical air is filled with a spiteful aroma towards the law and commandments of God. Where we have made too much of grace, we might have made too little of the law of God. Perhaps some have put their trust in grace, thus eliminating a need for law, rather than putting trust in Christ. But the same argument above applies to the law of God. God is just and thus a law-maker and the first law keeper. When we write off God’s law and commandments, we write off God’s equity, his justice. And then God becomes less than who he is. We fashion a false god by butchering his attributes and amputating the ones we don’t like.

We need the law, but don’t be confused. By saying we need the law, I am not arguing that the law saves. The law does not save us. The person Christ saves (1 Th. 5:9); he saves us by grace (Eph. 2:8). But, I need to remind you, that the person Christ embodied the law, kept the law, and fulfilled the law (Matt. 5:17). Thus, it must be significant; it ought to be precious in our eyes — as precious as grace. But I bet that sounds discomforting to you. And that’s because I’m heating up the evangelical pool pretty quickly, and you might not find that new temperature the comfortable temperature that you are used to. But many would argue that the law schools us towards Christ (Gal. 3:24). It instructs us of our great need for him. We do not embody, keep, or fulfill the law like Christ did. Thus, we need Christ. This makes the law precious.

Because Christ in His human nature, lived righteously and justly, piously and equitably, he satisfied our need to keep the law of God. In his piety he kept the first table of the law and in his equity he kept the second table of the law. Watson says, “The first and second tables are knit together; piety to God, and equity to our neighbor” (46). Christ set the standard we could not keep and achieved what we could not achieve. He was fully pious and fully equitable. He did it for us, so that we might be counted as righteous with him (Jer. 23:6). Thus, we need the law to need Christ. And we need the law so that we see Christ. Christ is not just an incarnation of grace; he’s an incarnation of the law too because he is an incarnation of justice.

Christ is Our Substitute in Every Way

From The Valley of Vision, “God All-Sufficient”:

I plead his blood to pay my debts of wrong

Accept his worthiness of my unworthiness,

his sinlessness for my transgressions,

his purity for my uncleanness,

his sincerity for  my guile,

his truth for my deceits,

his meekness for my pride,

his constancy for my backslidings,

his love for my enmity,

his fullness for my emptiness,

his faithfulness for my treachery,

his obedience for my lawlessness,

his glory for my shame,

his devotedness for my waywardness,

his holy life for my unchaste ways,

his righteousness for my dead works,

his death for my life.

10 Quotes from Gospel Assurance and Warnings by Paul Washer

After having read all three volumes of Reformation Heritage Books’ series on Recovering the Gospel by Paul Washer, I confess that this study has sobered my understanding of preaching and seeing the gospel in action.

I have learned much about discerning and guiding other believers to reflect on the presence or lack of presence of God’s saving work in their lives. I’ve also received greater clarity to understanding God’s work of redemption found in Christ. This three year study has served me well as it has helped me explore my own life and process my awakening to the gospel as a sustenance not just that justifies but also sanctifies.

I encourage you to read every single volume of this series. Here are gleanings from the third volume: Gospel Assurance and Warnings.

1. “We must be absorbed in the Scriptures, that our progress in piety and our usefulness in the gospel ministry might be evident to all” (5).

2. “The evidence that we have become children of God is that when we become aware of our sin we respond with humility, brokenness, contrition, mourning, and trembling at the law we have spurned” (30).

3. “The God who is able to justify the foremost of sinners is also able to sanctify the foremost of sinners” (45).

4. “The standard of love in the new covenant is not defined merely by propositions and precepts alone but by the example of Jesus Christ. His love towards His people is now a benchmark for the believer” (61).

5. “Those who profess a place in the kingdom but who seldom have the kingdom in view should examine their profession” (78).

6. “It must be our dearest and most oft-repeated maxim: Christianity in its truest and most primitive form is a religion that is founded and focused upon Christ” (100).

7. “We must not be deceived into thinking that apathy toward godliness and neglect of God’s law is a lesser crime than outright rebellion” (123).

8. “Millions of people sit in church pews who are unconverted yet assured of their salvation because at one time they gave right answers to wrong questions” (159).

9. “God designs our sufferings to refine, transform, and make us like his son” (193).

10. “We decide to bear fruit because we desire to bear fruit, and these desires flow from our new natures. God does not make us willing by manipulation or coercion, but by the act of recreation. It is certain that we will bear good fruit because he has transformed us into the kind of trees that do so” (223).


015: Cochrans4Chicago Update

1 Timothy 1:17 “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.”
Dear Friends,
Summer is well underway and there is a lot of change going on in our home.

After our first church plant information meeting in mid April, it became clear that though there were people interested in seeing a new church plant in Libertyville, both the time was not right for an SBC plant in this community, because of recent events with an SBC church folding in the community, and there were not enough people who had an unflinching, earnest, burden to see a church planted at this time. The dynamic and critical mass was not present. Though discouraging as this was, it caused me to take seriously the counsel that many had given. What was that counsel? It was that, perhaps, I should not attempt to study a PhD and plant a church at the same time. That’s pretty wise counsel, wouldn’t you say?

In one lunch conversation with a mentor, my friend asked me, “Which do you really desire to do right now? If you had to pick one, which would it be? PhD or church planting?” The answer was difficult to admit, but it was pretty clear, PhD studies would win the day. I probably couldn’t drop the responsibility of leading a church to study a PhD. It would be wiser to study first and plant second.

The Lord had already opened the way for studying a PhD at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with Dr. Doug Sweeney in the Church History department. Whereas, it appeared that the door was closed for planting a church in Libertyville at this time.

So Kendall and I started earnestly praying about how I would go about studying my PhD at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School while also providing for our family at the same time. Then one afternoon as I was running errands for my family, Todd Wilson from Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park called me. By this time, Todd and I had gotten lunch a few times, and he had been a great encouragement to me both pastorally and academically. Todd, perhaps not even knowing what was going on in my mind and heart, asked me to pray about serving at Calvary Memorial Church while I study my PhD.

Todd and another pastor at Calvary Memorial, Gerald Hiestand, are founders of the Center for Pastor Theologians. CPT is an organization that’s mission is to reclaim the office of the pastor as the pastor-theologian.  

Here’s how they put it on their website:

“CPT is an evangelical organization dedicated to assisting pastor-theologians in producing and studying biblical and theological scholarship for the ecclesial renewal of theology, and the theological renewal of the church. At present, the primary mission emphasis of CPT is the CPT Fellowships, made up of a broadly diverse and select group of pastor-theologians. Each Fellowship gathers annually for a three-day theological symposium where Fellows collaborate together on various theological projects (both personal and corporate).”

Pastors, who hold a PhD, are qualified to apply to join one of the fellowships that CPT offers. Together these fellowships write and discuss on theological topics that require the studied eye of academicians and pastors working together. 

If you’re reading this, and you know me, you’re saying to yourself, “Sounds like a great fit for Joey.”

As Todd described to me the particular needs that the Church and CPT knew it would have beginning this Summer, we both agreed that I had the skill set, experience, and also burden for these needs. I might indeed be a fit for these two ministries. So during the month of May and the first week of June I started a candidacy process with the staff and the elders of the Church. 

I’m really pleased and excited to share with you that beginning Monday I will serve as the Pastor of Middle School Discipleship and Communications at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park. Even now, Kendall and I are reeling with the surreal sensation of this news.

The last two years have met us with many challenges. Yet, as a family we’ve grown closer to one another and to the Lord as we have walked through those challenges. I’m very thankful for my loving, supportive wife who has encouraged me all the way through this process. Kendall is an amazing woman. 

I’m also very thankful for all of you who have read, prayed, encouraged, and given to help us in our current work of ministry. All this has not been in vain. 

Both Kendall and I know that this story is not finished. We just have a sense of certainty to what the next steps of our lives in Chicagoland will look like. It will look like moving into a very densely populated, urban context — filled with busy people with busy lives. Oak Park is very close to the city. In this context we’ll drop and shine the precious light of the gospel. We’ll do so alongside our other friends who are experienced and seasoned veterans in these trenches. 

I sense that this will be a rewarding time of continual training in pastoral ministry, along with more clarity to what my calling is as a pastor. We look forward to calling Calvary Memorial Church and Oak Park home for the next season of time while I study a PhD. I look forward to the mentoring and shepherding that I will sit under during this time. It will be a very sweet time for our family.
We’ll miss our dear friends in the West Suburbs, especially those from Redeemer Fellowship. We will cherish the time we had sitting underneath Pastor Joe Thorn’s preaching and fellowshipping with our friends in the church. Yet, we rejoice that we will still be nearby for those friendships to continue. Oak Park is on the same train line as the Geneva train, so we’ll only be a few train stops away from our friends in the West Suburbs. And, of course, anyone who’s stopping into Oak Park for the Frank Lloyd Wright architectural tour will always be welcome over for a visit, wherever we end up living in the area.

Besides getting moved to Oak Park and starting a new pastoral role, I’m doing an independent study on Jonathan Edwards with my PhD supervisor, Dr. Doug Sweeney. Just the other day, I registered for my Fall classes and already am excited about studying with Kevin Vanhoozer, Don Carson, and others.

In August, our family has the pleasure of traveling to Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington State, where I have been invited to preach all week for a 4th-6th grade boys summer camp. It’s going to be a fun family trip for Kendall, I, and our kiddos, so we’re really looking forward to that time of ministry with our friends at Lakeside Bible Camp. And we can’t wait to spend time with my good friend Daniel Jensen, who is the camp director, and meet his wife.

Chloe and Asher are currently involved in a Summer reading program at the public library. I’m actually writing this update in the Batavia Library. Both Asher and Adalie have June birthdays, so we’re hoping to have a wonderful celebration for them before we move. Adalie is starting to talk like a chatterbox now that she is almost two. Chloe asked for a phone the other day. Kendall and I said no, and we will be saying so for a very long time. When she gets one, she’ll probably be the last earthling to have a flip-phone. And, Kendall, well, did I mention we’re moving? So, she’s on Etsy, Pinterest, and Redfin, thinking through repurposing ideas, mortgage calculations, elementary schools, and possible living scenarios. I’m right there next to her, amazed by her brilliance.

Right now, Kendall and I are trying to figure out living arrangement. This is our biggest prayer request. We wish to settle for the next season of time and hope to purchase a home, townhouse, or apartment in the Oak Park area that is affordable for our family. This, as we have learned from others at Calvary Memorial, is no small feat. In fact, it will be a work of God’s providence for us to manage to find something that will be sufficient for our family of five needs. 

Please pray that this Summer we’ll get relocated and settled in a new home with a new church family. Please pray that this will begin a new sweet season of ministry for our family. 
My time with NAMB is wrapping up to a close for now. Perhaps in a few years the Lord will direct our course back to partnering with the SBC and NAMB for the sake of church planting. If you wish to continue to give through the month of August, this would be super helpful as we figure out moving costs. But our NAMB account will close at the end of August. 

We really appreciate all those who have partnered with us. You’ve helped in immense ways — not just our family but Redeemer Fellowship’s family and God’s family as well. This chronicle of the Cochrans4Chicago has not come to a close. We’ll continue to share and tell of God’s work.
All funding may be securely given through the North American Mission Board. Gifts may be given through Electronic Funds Transfer, or AutoPay with your Debit or Credit Card. To set up automatic giving on-line go to our NAMB Webpage,

 If you wish to mail in an Electronic Funds Transfer request, you may do so. Fill out the form below and mail it to the address for NAMB below. When you fill out the form indicate my name JOEY COCHRAN and Account 10138 on the form.

 Here is a helpful document about giving online with the North American Mission Board.

 Q&A Sheet for Partnering with NAMB Missionaries.

 If you wish to send a monthly check, you may still do so. Please be sure to memo JOEY COCHRAN ACCT 10138 on your check.

 Mail your check to:

Attention: Accounting – MSC                       
PO Box 116543
Atlanta, Georgia 30368-6543


 The Cochran Family

The Search for Twitter Significance

So, I was just surfing my Twitter feed a minute ago, and I thought to myself: “Self, you haven’t written a quick throwaway article on social media lately.” So, here it is. Read and toss it.

There are a number of different kinds of Twitter users. And, quite honestly, those Twitter users can be defined by how they use Twitter. You can almost create a Twitter horoscope for that person based on their Twitter habits. As I wrote this article, it basically turned into that blended in with a little of: The Search for Twitter Significance.

Here’s some observations that I’ve made about how people use Twitter and what that might mean or say.

I want you to know that at some point during my last half-decade enjoying Twitter I have been each of these people or all of these people. I’m poking fun at me as much as the next guy or gal. And if you follow me on Twitter, you know just how true that is. You could stick my face right next to each one of these observations. But I want you to ask yourself, where could I stick my face? Does your Twitter Icon belong under any of these habits?

If you don’t use Twitter, then you probably use another social media that has parallels. A lot of these observations parallel onto Instagram, Facebook, or even Google+. But I don’t think you can Periscope or Snap Chat these habits yet. But, who knows? I might be wrong.

So, here’s some observations on how we all use Twitter.

1. I’ve got a link for this thread.

There’s always that guy or gal who jumps onto a conversation thread and then at some point effectively points everyone back to their website because of the mind-blowing article they’ve already written on this topic.

“Hey, I wrote on this here.” “That’s exactly what I said when I wrote about it here.” “Have you seen this?” “You know, my article on this is really good over here. It will inform your perspective.”

I’ve got a friend that does this so often that a few of us have actually dubbed this particular use of Twitter when it presents by his initials. But that doesn’t mean we don’t do it as much or even more. We’re all guilty of this, all us writers.

What does this mean about you?

Well, you’re a writer. That’s for sure. You want people to read your writing, which only makes sense. They created journals for you to write to yourself or for yourself. The internet is created for communal experiences of writing. So, you’re not going to waste the internet’s potential. Finally, you want to help people to get to the heart of an issue in more than 140 characters. Because, seriously, who can really do so in 140 characters?

You might be a little bit of an opportunist too. I mean, you are pointing people to your own writing, which furthers yourself in a small way, view by view. Perhaps you can accentuate this by pointing people to other’s writing as often as you point them to your own.

2. First one to the clever quip. 

You know you’ve done this. I have too. Your friends/colleagues have a great conversation starter, and what they really need is your clever quip to really kick it in high gear. They say something thoughtful or reflective. Rather than Jesus Juking you divert the conversation into high gear wit.

Furthermore, when you see a conversation, and someone beats you to the clever quip, you just move on. If you can’t be the first one in that territory, then you’re not gonna bother being in that territory.

Or, you just have to practice one-upmanship. Surely you can say something just a little more clever than the guys or gals above you in the thread. It’ll just take a minute to think up that tweet, or two, or three minutes. But you’re gonna lock it down, and if you play your tweet just right, someone might just let you know that “You win the internet.”

What does this mean about you?

You’re funny and you find humor to be important. You also probably use humor to diffuse awkward situations or tense moments. You might leverage humor in conflict. You like to employ your humor to the benefit of others, and deep down you get satisfying attention when people favorite or retweet your humor.

If you’ve been looking past conversations because you weren’t able to make that satisfying, funny first tweet, perhaps you should favorite that other person’s Twitter witticism and give them a little affirmation. You might also suppress that urge for one-upmanship.

3. I gotta comment on every thread. 

I’ve seasonally been the worst with this one. Every conversation thread that exists, you have to be present in it. You just want everyone to know you’re still there.

“Hey guys. I’m here. Look at me.” It doesn’t matter if you just have to say, “Yup” or “That’s right” or “Me too” or some other longer thought that is still less than 140 characters. As long as your presence is known, it’s felt. Or so you think.

What does this mean about you?

Deep down you want to be included, affirmed, and recognized. You need your presence sensed. It may be that you fear being forgotten, or you think that there is some sort of opportunity lost in not being present. Maybe your end game is that if you are present in every conversation your influence will extend. Perhaps more people will follow you because they recognize that you are connected to other influential Twitter users.

If this is you, you might consider taking rest periods from Twitter. If you can’t help but being in every thread, then it might serve you and others by limiting your hours on Twitter. Quite honestly, that’s what I’ve done. You weren’t meant to be everywhere present. Only God is. Let him have that attribute. Also, rest assure that you’re not going to be forgotten and you are loved. Both by God and your other friends.

4. I’ve got a book for you. 

So this one rears its head in two main ways.

The first way is at the release and launch of a new book. I’m so caught in the underbelly of the Christian publishing world that I am very attune to this. I know because I follow a lot of authors and bloggers. We all love books. We all love getting books. And we all love sharing books. So when one of us writes a new book, all the others get a copy. And the publicist drops them all in the mail at the same time and the book is typically shared around the same time.

Nowadays, book launches are very well-organized marketing campaigns. And Twitter plays a part in it. Twitter influencers will get an e-mail from a publicist or perhaps the author that says, “Hey friend, please share about this book on this date. Snap a photo of it. Here’s some things you can say about it. Share with everyone.”

Now I’m just as on board with this as everyone else. Why? Because I love books. And I love sharing about really good books. So I do this a lot. I even participate in those book launch campaigns. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want people to read the books I have confidence in — books I believe are gospel-centered, books that I think may make a difference in people’s spiritual lives, perhaps an eternal difference. So, I’m not knocking this practice at all. Yet, as you might guess, here comes the but.

But there is a point where it feels a little artificial when your thread gets 50 tweets in one hour about the same book. Quite honestly, it’s ineffective marketing. It probably doesn’t have the wide reach that you would want it to, and it likely won’t have the ongoing frequency over the course of days and weeks that you would like it to.

It might even feel a little disingenuous and less grass-rootsy. You see, word-of-mouth is the best form of promotions. And, when it is extremely structured and powered by the intelligentsia or influencers, it’s no longer grassroots. People see that and know it. So, you might just ask: “If 300 influencers shout in the woods for one hour, does their voice get heard and last.” Perhaps they get heard, but it’s unlikely it will last. Of course, I’m wrong all the time, so I might be about this. But I don’t think so, because usually, a book launches and is forgotten within weeks. It’s because Marketing blitzes harnessing influencers aren’t sustainable unless they trickle down to your average Joe and Suzie. What an aside!

The second way in which the “I’ve got a book for you” presents is in any and every conversation when you suddenly have the definitive book that must be read on this topic. “Have you read this book? Oh, you haven’t. Well, then you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

What does this mean about you?

Well, obviously you’re a reader. And you want people to be readers too. Me too. Let’s hang out and read sometime. It also means that you think books carry a level of authority.

You might also like being know to have many books, perhaps the leather-bound kind found on solid mahogany built-in book shelves. That carries with it a level of academic prowess and nerdiness. You might just be compensating for a semester of 2.0 GPA in your past, not making the honor-roll in third grade, or being beat out for Valedictorian.

Or perhaps your struggle with coveting comes out in the form of books. And the struggle is real my friend. The struggle is real. Feel that weight on your shoulders right now. That’s the cross. You’re feeling cross pressure over books, and it’s heavy. Books are heavy. Let Christ carry it. And be honest about the coveting problem.

Perhaps you should turn down the next free book. Or give your monthly book allowance to your kids or wife. She could use a pedicure or new cut and color. Or perhaps you should just not tweet the next book you get. I mean, now that people know you have a coveting problem, you don’t want them to know how bad it really is.

5. I’ve got a deep quote or reflection for you.

Sometimes I wonder if Twitter was meant for something else other than populating it with classical quotes or deep thoughts. I mean, surely, there are other uses. But, as you all know, there are thousands of Twitter accounts dedicated to dead poets, authors, politicians, and other great thinkers. And all those accounts do is populate the world with those people’s thoughts.

Likewise, you and I populate the world with our deep thoughts or the deep thoughts of others that strike us. Right now I’m on a Thomas Watson and Valley of Vision binge. Others I know quote Puritans, Theologians, and other major Christian influencers living today. When a conference happens, it’s mute everyone at the conference time. That way you’re set free from the deep-reflective inundation.

What does this mean about you?

If they’re other people thoughts, then you have a message that you want to get across. You might be part of a movement that you want to see progress. And you want to see your propaganda embraced. Influence and change are initiated through the spread of information. And so you’re going to spread that information wide.

If they’re your thoughts, then you have a personal message that you want to get across. You want to exert influence. You want to see people changed. You also might just want to reach that next favorite or retweet goal. If only my tweet would go viral? What if I got 100 retweets? I know people that have had an explosive tweet, and then they promptly took a screenshot of that explosion. Perhaps the sensation is too deeply satisfying and idolatrous.

Be sure to balance other people’s thoughts with your own. You don’t want to look like the narcissist you are. And if you’re human, you have a little bit of a narcissist in you. You’re probably a bit ambitious. And ambition, when properly harnessed and given to God’s glory is very good and very godly. So, don’t be so worried about the ambition. Just try to kill the narcissism where you find it.

I could go on about other habits — like “I’ve got a selfie for you” or “Check out my awesome food.” But those two are just too predictable.

So where do you find yourself? Which of these categories do you fall under? What have I missed? What are other Twitter habits that could be added to the search for Twitter significance? Are there more redeeming or condemning qualities to bring out on each of these Twitter habits? What are they?

Mark: Teach the Text by Grant Osborne

Mark Grant OsborneBibliography

Grant Osborne. Mark: Teach the Text. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2014. 340 pp. $39.99.




When Mark Strauss and John Walton were first approached by Baker about editing a commentary set, they wondered if the world really needed another one. There are so many good ones after all. But then as they considered the needs of preachers, they discovered that, indeed, a valuable contribution might still be made. The Teach the Text commentary set is a blend of de-cluttered technical exegesis, theological reflection, and instruction on how to best teach and illustrate the text. The editors have intentionally limited each suggested preaching unit to six pages of commentary broken over three sections: Understanding the Text, Teaching the Text, and Illustrating the Text.

Understanding the Text is the element of the commentary that delves into the linguistic and exegetical interpretation, history, and theology of the text. This section begins with contextualizing the text within the wider text, followed by an explanation of the commentators structure for the text, then a verse-by-verse explanation of interpretive insights. Understand the Text ends with a few theological insights from the text.

Teaching the Text is a numbered list of theological insight that will instruct powerfully. Often this is the section that incorporates systematic or biblical theology into the preaching unit.

Illustrating the Text is a storehouse of word pictures, stories, quotes, parables or other common techniques used for illustrating the text. Most preaching units seem to offer 3-5 of these options.

The Teach the Text commentary set utilizes endnotes rather than footnotes. Most preaching units only have a handful of notes, which are typically brief, often simply citing another commentary.


The Teach the Text commentary series should be a welcomed guest in every preacher’s library and also in any person’s gospel-centered library. Baker has done an exceptional job displaying this set in an aesthetically appealing manner. As I’ve thumbed through my copy of Mark: Teach the Text in this commentary set, I’ve found it to be full of white space, making the text uncluttered, while also supplementing it with graphics and callouts that capture the geography, architecture, and artifacts of biblical times and church history. Occasionally there is an excursus in a call out that discusses a particular issue that sits in the background of the text.

This set has the advantage of profiting from the many technical commentaries that have been produced in recent time, while also being selective and concise in presenting that material. The publisher and editors know it is unlikely a pastor will only consult one commentary as he preaches. With the resources available to pastors today, many will have a number of commentaries on their desk as they ever keep the text in center before them. The Teach the Text commentaries are ideal for taking a first glance at secondary material for sermon preparation. Then students may dig deeper for more detail in other commentaries that the Teach the Text commentary will surely point students towards.

I’ve consulted my commentary of Mark: Teach the Text by Grant Osborne twice now in preparing sermons. Knowing the caliber of Osborne’s work, I was not surprised to see both a clear presentation of the text and gentle challenges that till ground for reproof. Having a wide selection of commentaries on Mark and already having consulted them as well, I can verify that there is always at least one or two new insights that I gleaned from what Osborne offered. This always makes an addition to the shelf valuable.

Probably the element that I appreciate the most from this set is how the editors considered the element of time as valuable for readers. This makes studying a section of the commentary manageable and devotional. With six pages of reading a day, I could easily navigate an excellent study of the gospel of Mark and complete it in less than two months. Perhaps the editors and publishers may have missed a far wider market with this commentary set. I could see any serious student of the Bible getting a lot out of reading through these commentaries in their devotional time. Plus, any small group leader or Sunday school teacher would find this set to be extremely handy.


Essential    Recommended    Helpful    Pass It By


Mark: Teach the Text is a reliable resource for engaging the text of Mark.

Crucifixion by Martin Hengel


Martin Hengel. Crucifixion. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977. 102 pp. $19.00.




Martin Hengel will be one of the most celebrated New Testament scholars during the 21st — 22nd centuries. His scholarly contributions are multitudinous. Yet, Crucifixion is arguable the most widely read work of his, and possibly the most significant. This hundred pager is no light reading, but it is not unthinkable either.

In Crucifixion Hengel wades through what appears to be the entire extant corpus of extra-biblical literature that alludes to crucifixion. As he navigates this material, Hengel directs readers to critical observations about crucifixion. He conveys that crucifixion is a criminal’s death (4, 49-50), a cruel practice (13), a difficult message to preach (18), indignifying (24), the summum supplicium — supreme punishment (33), and servile supplicium — slaves punishment (51), among other observations.

Many might attempt to twist crucifixion into being a hero’s death, but no indication from Greek or Roman literature indicate that this is the case. Crucifixion drew, as Hengel argues, “deep aversion” (14). It was a barbaric way to put down hostility to hegemony and do away with the lowest of people: the slaves and the criminals.

So, when Paul claims that the crux is a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Greek, he means exactly what he says. Here’s how Hengel concludes his thesis:

“All this leads to a final conclusion which it is difficult to resist. When Paul spoke in his mission preaching about the ‘crucified Christ’ (I Corinthians 1.23; 2.2; Galatians 3.1), every hearer in the Greek-speaking East between Jerusalem and Illyria (Romans 15.19) knew that this ‘Christ’ — for Paul the title was already a proper name — had suffered a particularly cruel and shameful death, which as a rule was reserved for hardened criminals, rebellious slaves and rebels agains the Roman state. That this crucified Jew, Jesus Christ, could truly be a divine being sent on earth, God’s Son, the Lord of all and the coming judge of the world, must inevitably have been thought by any educated man to be utter ‘madness’ and presumptuousness.” (83)

Of course, giving away the thesis doesn’t gain you any ground on enjoying and experiencing the whole process of watching Hengel’s masterly approach of bringing you to this conclusion. It is an effort of grace and finesse; Hengel proves himself to be an academic acrobat.


I always understood the punishment of crucifixion to be a death penalty of severe suffering. The crucifix hanging from the front of the Roman Catholic church I worshipped in all through childhood left no room to suppress that impression. And if it had, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ brought the sensation to technicolor for me. Yet, Hengel struck a new nerve for me. He surfaced the emotional element of crucifixion.

Crucifixion was not just physical torture but it left a mark of shame and dishonor on all those who endured it. Just like when a family member brings shame upon the family, Christ’s crucifixion brings shame upon the entire family of Christ. What we call a badge of shame — with our merchandising of the cross — was more like a badge of shame for the early Christians. It’s easier to historically document a man hanging from a tree rather than document an empty tomb. And those who identified with that well documented cross and the Christ upon it, were looked upon more like Hester Prynne, with her scarlet letter. They were outcasts of society; they were dejected, downtrodden, and scorned. To identify with Christ is to identify with a criminal rebel and slave rather than a prince. If anything, Crucifixion helps Christ followers grip the humiliation of Christ all the more.

In addition, as I said above, Crucifixion is a display of impressive research. Martin Hengel effortlessly interacts with numerous Greek and Roman texts, displaying his authority and expertise in this field of study. Hengel encourages me to improve my studies and pick up more of the classics. Who knows what valuable observations and contributions might be pilfered from this literature, all for the sake of theological studies?


Essential    Recommended    Helpful    Pass It By


Crucifixion is a crucial classic for every Christ follower.

The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers

ValleyOfVision_pbk_frontIf you read my twitter feed, you’ll notice by now that I almost daily share a quote from The Valley of Vision. All these tweets are given the hashtag: #ValleyofVision.

The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers arranged by Arthur Bennett. Many are written by Bennett himself. Others are adapted from Puritan writings.

This is my second time reading through The Valley of Vision. Honestly, I wish I would have started regularly reading through this prayer-book in seminary when Professor John Hannah shared with our historical theology class about this pocket-book of prayers. I’ve benefited so much theologically and spiritually in these two reads that I wonder what benefit I will have a decade from now. This prospect in itself is encouraging.

Don’t just take my word for the value of The Valley of Vision. Check out what Don Carson says about this book of prayer:

‘The prayers in The Valley of Vision are steeped in Scripture, yet never succumb to mere formula. They are theologically fresh and vibrant, yet they are rooted in confessionalism. They range over a huge sweep of Christian experience and devotion, but they are never merely esoteric or cute. They brim with deep emotion and transparent passion, but they carefully avoid mere sentimentalism. This is a book that teaches readers to pray by example.’ — D. A. Carson

I echo everything Carson says. Not only does this book brim with deep emotion and transparent passion along with robust confessional theology, but it will in turn move you in similar ways. I’ve found my own prayer life to be transformed because of the many truths I’ve embraced and learned from this book of prayer.

Just today I read this:

Help me, O Lord, to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee, for better, for worse, without comfort, and all but hopeless. Give me peace of soul, confidence, and enlargement of mind, morning joy that comes after night heaviness; water my soul richly with divine blessings; grant that I may welcome thy humbling in private so that I might enjoy thee in public; give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.

These words were heartwarming for me to read, hear, and repeat back to my savior.

The prayers in The Valley of Vision each have a candid balance between confessing sin and embracing expiation. The prayers resonate with thoughts of overwhelming unworthiness because of offenses against God that are turned to shouts of exultation in being made worthy through Christ our mediator and intercessor. This is welcomed, especially in a culture that is growing numb to guilt, disobedience, and sin. No one wants to be known as reprobate, carnal, or a sinner. Yet, apart from Christ, that is who we are.

For all those who believe on Christ, he mediates on our behalf and stands as our advocate. His constant communion with his Father intercedes on our behalf. His prayers make up for the difference of our weak prayers.

Thomas Watson reminds us in the Body of Divinity: “It is a great comfort to a believer, when his prayer is weak, and he can hardly pray for himself, that Christ’s prayer in heaven is might and powerful” (181).

If you’re at all interested in picking up a copy of The Valley of Vision, you can get it here at Banner of Truth’s website. I recommend the Leather-bound copy. That is the one I keep by my bedside. I also have the ebook, which is what I normally read from.

My pastor, Joe Thorn, has also created a helpful reading guide for The Valley of Vision. You can download it for free here at his blog.

You Are Worth More Than Your Social Stock Says You Are

Today you are going to log into some sort of social media — likely you’ll log into a number of accounts. Your eyes will gravitate to different functions of that media. You’ll check notifications. You’ll look at your feed. Inevitably, you’ll take stock of social capital. How many followers do you have today? How many friends? How many likes/favorites? You may even take a moment to check your Klout or find out what your SumAll score says about you.

Social media is a narcissists playground. And if anything is true about social media it is that it is the well-tilled soil to cultivate generations of narcissism. The invention of social media is not altogether different from the invention of the mirror. Both were intended to be utilitarian devices; both end up as tools of self-absorption.

Sadly enough, not unlike a mirror, social media can be manipulated. You can purchase a mirror that makes you look more slender than you really are, and you can build a social media profile that is far more impressive than who you are in person. The inverse is also true. When you stroll through a funny house, you will often see your reflection in mirrors that uglify or distort your true person. Likewise, we will often stroll through social media and see things that are not true of ourselves and, also, are not true of others.

The reality is you’re looking into the wrong mirror to measure your worth.

You see, both a looking glass and social media are not accurate representations of who you are. They are but “dim” representations (1 Cor. 13:12). There are many in the world who do not have the foggiest idea of who they really are. It’s because they are always looking into imperfect mirrors.

If you know Christ, and if his Word is in you, then you have hope. You have an idea of where your true net worth comes from; you have a real mirror to look into. God says his Word is a mirror (James 1:23). And reading 1 Corinthians 13:12 rightly should lead us to a forward looking understanding of what it means to be face to face with ourselves when we see the enduring love in which we abide. If we are united to Christ, new creations, and heirs of eternal life, then we don’t just look into the mirror of the Word that is law, but we look into the mirror of the Word which is gospel. We see Christ face to face; we see love; we see grace; we see forgiveness.

Sure enough, social media can and will tell you something about yourself. But it is truly a one-dimensional impression, just like a mirror. It’s a flat picture of who you are. It’s a virtual image. Your social media worth is not your true net worth. It’s also not where your true worth should be found.

It’s true that as time has passed, the line has blurred between virtual avatars and the true image and likeness we bear. What happens in the virtual ether transfers into real life and vice versa. But whether it be in the real life looking into a mirror or the virtual life looking into a social media mirror, you have to remind yourself that your truest self — the most accurate picture of yourself — is not one that can be manipulated, uglified, or distorted. Your true self is rooted, beautified, and clarified by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Just remember this, when you encounter God face to face, he’s not going to see notifications, favorites, likes, and retweets. He’s going to see Jesus. Jesus stood in your place at the cross. And the cross is the only event truly worth notifying others of, favoriting, liking, and retweeting. It’s the only noteworthy news because it is the only truly good news.

Is that convincing to you? Convincing enough to diminish the worth of your social capital so that the worth of Christ may be elevated in your eyes?

Anything that takes the place of God becomes an idol. And anything that is elevated above God becomes an idol. It’s all too easy to turn social capital into an idol. It’s easy to look onto a profile and determine a person’s worth by what they’ve said, quoted, gif’d, instagrammed, and who follows them or who they follow. What’s worse, you don’t just diminish your own worth, but you slay other people’s worth by letting something so artificial become so pivotal.

Friend, you are worth far more than your social stock says you are.